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Style of the Week: Holiday Ales!

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December 5, 2014 by fhsteinbart


wee heavy

Classic thistle shaped serving glass complete with BEER!

Seeing as how the Holiday Ale Fest is in full swing, I thought it would warm your winter with a favorite of mine, namely a “Wee Heavy” or Scotch Ale. I brewed this beer last when there was the much anticipated hop shortage. It featured what the Scots call ground hops, or Heather Tips. While Heather has a unique and mild flavor, their bitterness is completely different from Hops. It’s best described as an herbal medicinal flavor with some low level honey like notes to smooth out the finish (think Drambuie and you’ll know what I mean) a bit. While the Scots have a penchant for naming things that counterpoint the reality of the world, they do have some novel ideas about brewing. The Scots invented sparging just before the Germans and also kept making traditional true to style strong beers and ales up through to the present. Probably the two best known commercial examples of the style would be Skull Splitter and Belhaven’s Wee Heavy. Below is a recipe of mine that produces something in between those two beers.

Extract version:

OG: 1.090 FG: 1.015

10 lbs. Light DME

¼ lb.Crystal 15L

¼ lb. Crystal 150L

¼ lb. Light Roast Barley

¼ lb. Honey Malt

5 AAU’s Golding’s hops for 60~90 minutes

1 Whirlfloc Tablet or ½ tsp. Irish Moss at last 15 minutes

5 AAU’s Golding’s hops for 10 minutes

¾ gm. Calcium Chloride Salts per gallon (~3.75 gms. or 1 level tsp.) in boil

Wyeast 1728, WLP028, or S-04

Procedure:

  • Heat 2-5 gallons of water to 165°F.
  • Add steeping grains to kettle and steep for 30 minutes.
  • Turn off heat and add malt extract, stirring until fully dissolved.
  • Return to Heat, bring to boil for 5 min. then add bittering hops.
  • At 10 minutes add the flavor hops.
  • At knockout (0 minutes), turn off the heat, cool the mixture by placing kettle in an ice bath or use a wort chiller. Add the mixture to the fermenter, removing the hops, and bring total volume to 5 gallons using distilled, bottled, or filtered tap water.
  • Aerate unfermented wort (shaking works well).
  • Pitch yeast and ferment at 60°F to 65°F for up to two weeks.
  • Allow to age an additional 3 to 4 weeks before packaging up as usual.

All Grain version:

OG: 1.090 FG: 1.015

16 lbs. British Pale Ale or ESB Malt

¼ lb.Crystal 15L

¼ lb. Crystal 150L

¼ lb. Light Roast Barley

¼ lb. Honey Malt

5 AAU’s Golding’s hops for 60~90 minutes

1 Whirlfloc Tablet or ½ tsp. Irish Moss at last 15 minutes

5 AAU’s Golding’s hops for 10 minutes

¾ gm. Calcium Chloride per gallon (~3.75 gms. or 1 level tsp.) in boil

Wyeast 1728, WLP028, or S-04

¾ gm. Calcium Chloride Salts per gallon (~3.75 gms. or 1 level tsp.) in both mash and boil

Procedure:

  • Infusion mash at 148°F for 90 min with the Brewing Salts.
  • Sparge until 6~6½ gal wort has been obtained.
  • Add the rest of the salts after the boil commences.
  • Boil for 1 to 1½ hours total time.
  • Add the bittering hops after 15 minutes boiling and continue to boil for 60 more minutes.
  • Add Whirlfloc or Irish Moss at last 15 minutes.
  • Add the aroma hops at 10 minutes remaining to the boil.
  • Gravity may vary depending on system efficiency, so adjust accordingly.

Package up as usual; bottled versions should use 80 gms. corn sugar (approx. 3/5 cup), or kegged to 10 psig, and allow two weeks to come into condition. Serve at 50~55°F in a Thistle glass, share and enjoy! This beer will continue to evolve and change over the coming months, so make enough to last you through your next brew.

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